WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Obama honors heroism Tuesday with the presentation of the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration.
Kyle J. White, a former Army sergeant, is being honored for conspicuous gallantry during combat operations in Afghanistan on Nov. 9, 2007.
"Sgt. White will be the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan," says the White House.
White saved another soldier's life and helped with the evacuation of other wounded comrades while under fire during an ambush.
"We honor Kyle White for his extraordinary actions on the November day. But his journey from that day to this speaks to the story of his generation," said President Obama during the presentation.
With the medal, White, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome after the ambush, also draws attention to the recent scrutiny confronting the Veteran’s Affairs health care system and allegations of lapses in care and delays in mental health treatment.
Though Obama did not mention the VA controversies specifically, he told White: “You did your duty, and now it’s time for America to do ours: after more than a decade of war, to welcome you home with the support and the benefits and opportunities that you’ve earned.”
An Army account of the attack says White, then a 21-year-old Army specialist, and his team of 14 U.S. troops, along with Afghan National Army soldiers, were ambushed Nov. 9, 2007, after attempting to hold a meeting with village elders in the village of Aranas in Nuristan province.
During the exchange of fire, White was knocked unconscious. When he came to, he realized that most of his fellow Americans and all of the Afghans traveling with them had slid 150 feet down a rocky cliff for cover.
Left at the top with White were platoon leader 1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, Spc. Kain Schilling, Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, who was embedded with the group, and its interpreter. White set about trying to assess the condition of his fellow soldiers, running and crawling through gunfire only to find Ferrara dead and Bocks badly wounded. Though he tried to stop Bocks’ bleeding, the Marine later died.
Though suffering from concussions, White treated Schilling’s injuries and used one of the unit’s radios to call for help. When a helicopter arrived after nightfall, White only allowed himself to be evacuated after the wounded were assisted.
Schilling survived the attack and attended White’s Medal of Honor ceremony.
White completed the rest of a 15-month deployment in Afghanistan and returned home to train other paratroopers as they prepared to deploy. White retired from the Army in 2011 as a sergeant. He graduated from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte with a finance degree, and he now works as an investment analyst at a bank in Charlotte.
In his first public discussion of the attack, White said that after the ambush, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He urged veterans suffering from the illness to get help.